A backyard orchard is a contemporary concept in urban or residential gardening. The idea is to have continuous fruit harvests throughout the growing season by planting a wide variety of fruit trees close together, or in containers. The trees are pruned to keep them low and easy to harvest.
I began growing potted fruit trees 3 years ago and I've had an equal amount of success and failure. I've trialed Manoa Sweet acerola cherry, Dwarf Apple banana, Sunrise papaya and several different varieties of fig, lemon, lime, olive, pomegranate and tangerine.
Acerola cherry, Apple banana and Sunrise papaya weren't container trees. These root systems needed a lot more room to grow. The roots eventually broke through the containers before the trees ever produced any fruit.
Taggiasca and Arbequina Olive Just beginning their 2nd year
Fig, olive and pomegranate have been the easiest fruit trees to grow - they're very forgiving and drought tolerant. They won't perish if they're over-watered or under-watered and they don't seem to have any special fertilizer requirements.
I don't recommend olive trees as they don't produce fruit in Kihei, they need what's known as chill hours in order to trigger flowering in the spring. Chill hours are also needed to grow apple, pear, persimmon and stone fruits but these fruits do grow at the higher elevations on Maui.
Information about low chill hour fruit trees and fruit producing plants can be found here:
Citrus grows very well in the ground in all areas of Maui. However, my container planted citrus has been very temperamental. The problem may be that soil temps get too hot for the roots during the summer months. Potted citrus, when grown in Kihei, has significant fertilizer needs.
Citrus trees are widely available at most of the garden centers in Kihei and Kahului. Kula Hardware has the largest selection of fruit trees on Maui. The selection varies throughout the year but they do keep a call list. In February, they bring in a wide variety of bareroot trees from the Mainland. It's a good idea to be on their list if there's a specific tree you'd like to buy.
Another good source for bareroot trees is Bay Laurel Nursery. They have a very large selection of bareroot fruit trees and plants and they ship to Hawaii. The bareroot trees are shipped from January through March. For best selection, order in September; for the best price, but limited selection, order in late February or early March. I'll address bareroot trees more specifically later in this post.
White Kadota Fig, a bareroot Angel Red Pomegranate,
Fremont Tangerine and a fruiting Angel Red Pomegranate
Most of my fruit trees are planted in 30 gallon containers that I purchased at Home Depot. They're the largest container I've found locally that's affordable and consistently stocked.
These containers last about 2 years before the rims begin to crack from constant sun exposure. Container grown trees can be repotted without shocking the tree. In fact some guidebooks recommend uprooting potted trees when they're dormant and trimming the roots every 3 years. Another option is to line the container with one of the larger SmartPots
I fill the container with a natural and organic potting soil and 1/2 cup of green sand. I fertilize the tree once a month with 1/2 cup of an organic all purpose fertilizer and some well rotted compost. So far, this has been enough for the fig, olive and pomegranate trees but citrus requires additional fertilizers. I've used several organic products that are formulated specifically for citrus but my trees still aren't thriving.
As for pests, the birds don't bother the citrus but they will peck at the ripening figs and pomegranates. There are various ways of deterring the birds - I find the plastic netting works well.
Rose beetles will attack the pomegranate leaves, aphids, white flies and a small insect I haven't been able to identify go after the citrus leaves and the fig leaves are susceptible to leaf rust. Other than the birds, I've not had any pests attack the fruit.
A Bareroot Black Jack Fig Just starting to bud
If you decide to purchase a bareroot tree it's a very good idea to be prepared to plant it within a few days. In Kihei, bareroot trees will dry out and die if planting is delayed. If you're planting in a container it's best to have the container and potting soil prior to receiving the tree.
The first time I purchased bareroot trees I wasn't ready and didn't plant the trees for 10 days. Even though I kept the roots moist, the trees died not long after they were planted. This year I planted my trees the following day and within 2 weeks they were budding.
With bareroot trees the right level of moisture is critical in the beginning. The trees won't develop their roots if the soil is too wet or dry. Although the general recommendation is to water the tree just after you plant it and not again until it buds, this is not the best advice for a container planted tree in Kihei. In Kihei, it's important to check the moisture level in the soil at least a foot from the surface every few days. If the soil drys out before the leaves start to develop, the root system may be too fragile for the tree to survive.
In the near future, I'll be uploading posts that individually address the various types of trees I've been growing.